Paralegal Success Tips--30 Lessons for 30 Years

Thirty years of working in law offices has taught me a few things. Some of them are simply to survive. Others are to provide top quality client service. Here is my top 30 lessons learned:


# 30 Paralegals are professionals that project an image of the attorney to the clients. Therefore, be a professional, look like a professional, and carry yourself as a professional.

# 29 Most people are willing to help you if they are asked nicely. Be polite.

# 28 If you want the legal team to be team players, then you need to be a team player yourself. Help your co-workers in a pinch.
 
# 27 Loyalty to an attorney is one of the most important qualities that an attorney looks for in a paralegal. If you look at all long term attorney/paralegal teams, they are developed from loyalty and respect for one another.

# 26 Check your attitude at the door. No one wants to listen to a whiney baby.

# 25 Always give your attorney your best work product possible. If you are going to sign your name on the Proof of Service, the document should be as perfect as you can make it: organized, clean, tabbed, and professional. Take pride in your work.

# 24 Return telephone calls.

# 23 Never let your attorney go to court unprepared and disorganized.

# 22 Keep binders or save your documents as forms. I have forms from 1980. Some verbiage just never grows old.

# 21 Technology is your friend. Learn it, keep up with it, and share it.

# 20 If you have a question, try to research the answer first. However, you are not going to know everything, so don't be afraid to ask a question after you have tried to figure it out.

# 19 Always start a question to your attorney with the name of the case the question is relating to. Attorneys are not mind readers.

# 18 If you have discovered something new (a form, a rule change, an easier way to do something, a fee change, etc.) share the information. Don't keep it to yourself.

# 17 Be a good employee. Give your employer what they are paying you for.

# 16 Always have a mentor, and be a mentor to someone else. Applaud the successes of your colleagues.
 
# 15 Knowledge is the cornerstone to every good paralegal. Never stop learning and always keep up with the rules.

# 14 If you tell someone you are going to do something, you better do it. Trust lost is sometimes lost forever.

# 13 Always keep the client informed of the case status.

# 12 Pay attention to details. It is the little details that will win a case.

# 11 You are not always going to be right. Humility can be a great quality.

# 10 Never let a deadline lapse. It is okay to get an extension to protect a deadline.

# 9 Utilize a dependable docket system. Give your attorney frequent reminders, and don't stop until the task is completed.

# 8 E-mail is a great communication tool between you, your attorney, and the legal team to maximize efficiency, time management, and documenting a file. It is an easy way for everyone to be on the same page.

# 7 Take notes of your conversations with your attorney, co-counsel, staff, and any other case related communications, including the date, time, and a summary of the discussion. If your case management system does not have this capability, then create a Microsoft Word document or other means to write everything down.

# 6 Be honest about your billing practices.

# 5 Maintain a clean file, and keep it organized. Organization will take the chaos out of managing a case.

# 4 If you have a project that seems insurmountable, do not look at the big picture. Take the project one step at a time, one piece of paper at a time. The next thing you know, the task is done. I utilize tables, graphs, outlines, lists, and case management programs to the fullest when working on large projects.

# 3 Write down all of the instructions that your attorney gives you. If you are not clear on the instructions given, repeat them back to the attorney to confirm that you understand the instructions.

# 2 Keeping the client case costs to a minimumis part of providing good client service. Utilize the most cost efficient way to complete a task.

#1 It is the attorney's practice so follow the attorney's instructions within the ethical boundaries of your profession.

One last thought, being a paralegal is your profession, not your life. Remember to keep a balance between work and home.


Barbara Haubrich, ACP/CAS is the creator and author of The California Litigator, an e-zine for legal professionals who are interested in enhancing their knowledge and strategies in the arena of California state civil litigation support. Barbara is also an Administrative Legal Assistant with the law firm of Chain | Cohn | Stiles in Bakersfield, California.

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